Mayor Eric Adams has commendably signaled his intention to ignore the suggestion of United Teachers’ Federation leader Michael Mulgrew to close public schools and switch to distance learning, insisting that after two years of âeducation lostâ we simply cannot âdo it anymoreâ.
He’s right – and Catholic schools have shown that most of the two years of learning and socializing lost, as well as the burdens families faced, were unnecessary.
While public schools have become bogged down in pandemic politics, union-induced closures and a year and a half of distance learning mostly ineffective, Catholic schools in large cities have been continuously open for in-person instruction since. September 2020.
They followed the science: faculty and students adapted to masking, social distancing, teaching in small cohorts, and contact tracing. They have shown that safe face-to-face learning is possible despite the pandemic.
In the 2020-2021 school year, only one case of COVID-19 in Catholic schools in New York City has been attributed to school transmission. Likewise in Boston, Catholic schools reopened nearly a year before public schools without any outbreak of COVID-19.
With New York City schools adopting safety measures similar to proven Catholic school measures, Adams can say that “the safest place for children is inside the school.”
When public schools closed in early 2020 and fumbled with distance learning, Catholic schools rushed to get tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots for students. They kept regular schedules, traditions and instructions at bay while using technology to digitize schoolwork.
But in the end, they, and even the best of other schools trying distance learning, have concluded that distance is a poor substitute for in-person instruction.
With the pandemic persisting, Catholic schools took advantage of the summer of 2020 to prepare to safely reopen with most students in class and a remote option for families uncomfortable with in-person schooling. . For these distant students, Catholic schools provided synchronous instruction as the best alternative to in-person participation, with uniforms and cameras on for the virtual classroom.
Upon reopening, Catholic schools added guidance for serious issues caused by student closures, especially for those in troubled homes and neighborhoods for which the structure, activities and values ââof their schools make it possible to spend the day safely. On the academic side, Catholic schools have used cutting edge technology to identify and address individual education deficits resulting from closures and distance learning.
Meanwhile, New York’s public schools have stumbled into the woefully ill-prepared and two-week overdue 2020-2021 school year. Then, many schools have closed again due to the low threshold of 3% positivity rate for the closures that the teachers’ union won by threatening an illegal strike.
About 70% of the city’s students spent the school year entirely at a distance. It was a wasted year for the most part, followed by weak catch-up programs.
It wasn’t for lack of funding: New York City spends the most of any major school district in the country, $ 28,000 per student, nearly three times the cost of $ 10,000 per student in Catholic schools in the city, which have higher graduation and university enrollment rates. in general and for disadvantaged students alike.
Concerned parents voted with their feet. Gotham schools have lost 50,000 students since fall 2019, down 4.5% or quadruple the rate of decline from the previous two school years without a pandemic. Enrollment in parish schools, by contrast, increased for the first time in 27 years, with 2,500 students transferring from public schools despite the burden of tuition fees. In Brooklyn and Queens, after years of steady decline, 60% of parish schools have increased enrollment, with the share of non-Catholic students at an all-time high of 20%.
Boston Parish Schools have added more than 5,000 new students in the past two academic years, 80 percent of whom have transferred from public schools. With approximately 32,500 students, the Boston parish school system is a valuable alternative to Boston’s public school system of 46,000 students.
Without teacher unions and stifling bureaucracy, Catholic schools outperform public schools in good times – but institutions really are strained in bad times, and under the stress of a once-in-a-century pandemic, Catholic schools have stayed true to their charges, adapted and proven what worked.
For public schools, it is about having the political will to stand up to teachers’ unions: under public pressure to exploit the pandemic to close schools to the detriment of education and the well-being of our people. children, the unions have publicly changed their tone – but they still threaten to shut down.
After eight years of obedience to the teachers’ union, it’s refreshing to have a mayor who puts students first.
Ed Cox was one of the founders and co-chair of the SUNY Charter Schools Committee and has been involved with Catholic schools since 1985 as the founding director of Student Sponsor Partners, which sponsors needy students in Catholic high schools.